Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan began in 1985 with a quest for better beer and a 15-gallon soup kettle. Since then, they've grown into a regional brewery featuring handcrafted brews, interesting food and live music weekly in its Eccentric Café. Last year, Brewery owners embarked on a significant expansion to create a dedicated music venue in what used to be a warehouse—and were adamant about outfitting it with the best sound system possible. They brought in audio consultant Jacob Wargo, whose extensive resume included gigs with Eighth Day Sound for clients like Widespread Panic and the seminal Bonnaroo Music Festival, who designed an audio system based around a world-class d&b audiotechnik PA and a pair of DiGiCo consoles—an SD8-36 at FOH and an SD8-24 for monitors—to handle both FOH and monitor-world duties for the new 400-seat venue. Eighth Day handled the final design, install and wiring.
"Our initial goals were to create a space where people could come listen to awesome musicians play in Kalamazoo and have it sound great," recalled owner Laura Bell. "We wanted to convert a dingy back warehouse space into a venue that was not only pleasing to the eye, but to the ear too. Honestly, I think the install went fairly smoothly without too many challenges."â€¨â€¨"I was approached initially by Bell's Entertainment Director, Amy Hoffman," explained Wargo. "I had dreamt about providing concert patrons a great experience that would be not only sonically thrilling, but believable as well. In the initial meeting with the roundtable of Bell's decision-makers, I simply asked them what they wanted. They told me to find the right gear for this new space that would match the quality of their beer… and they wanted a space where artists like Bob Dylan and Prince would want to play!"
"I dreamt up the audio system and gear arrangement," he added, "including PA choice, consoles and microphone specs. I consulted for the enlistment of Eighth Day Sound and their Installation Director Tom George to take charge of the actual PA installation/ wiring/commissioning as I was on tour on and off throughout the process. While I was gone, Eighth Day Sound did a fantastic job turning my brainstorm into audio art and made sure my vision was carried out with stunning accuracy. Once I was off the road, I did get to help finish the installation and mix about twenty-five show, which was pure delight!"â€¨
The overall Brewery system spec'd by Wargo comprises a d&b audioteknik Q-Series system with d&b audioteknik B2 subwoofers, all mixed by the DiGiCo SD8 consoles feeding a BSS Soundweb London graphic EQ, with eight Radial J48 and JDI active/passive DI's and a combination of Shure, Sennheiser 9 Series, Telefunken M80s, Audio Technica and EV microphones.
"The FOH console is 30 feet from the downstage edge; dead center," he explained. "Owner Larry Bell wanted the FOH soundboard to be right in the sweet spot. At monitor world, the SD8 feeds 16 mixes of 24 bit / 48kHz AES connected to d&b audioteknik M4 monitors, as well as in-ear monitors on a regular basis. One of my favorite features is the AES connectivity. It's my favorite way of interfacing with a PA system."
Choosing the DiGiCo consoles just made sense to Wargo, for numerous reasons—from footprint to features. "We didn't have space or a stage crew for a Midas Heritage 3000, but after I'd A/B'd the SD8 and the Heritage on a d&b J-Series system, it was clear that not only was the DiGiCo half the size of the Midas, but it sounded so good! Add to that the multiband dynamics, the dynamic EQ… SOLD!"
The deal sealer was the people at DiGiCo, he said. "I have been teching and mixing on DiGiCo SD series consoles since their inception, and I know that if and when I have a problem—or when technology fights back—I can call DiGiCo at any hour and they will be there for me."
While the brewery hasn't booked Prince or Dylan, yet, they've hosted a stellar roster of regional and national artists including the Grammy nominated bluegrass band, the Infamous Stringdusters. â€¨â€¨"At this point we're still just getting our feet wet, but we're very happy with what we've been able to do so far," Bell concluded. "I think we have a lot of new opportunities and capabilities that will really help set us apart as a venue in the Midwest." â€¨